Driving the future of golf

How a non-traditional use of technology is changing the 'face' of golf balls

Top half of a golf ball against a dark background

Soft, but strong. It sounds counterintuitive, right? Not when it comes to golf balls. When Callaway Golf began developing its new ERC Soft and Supersoft golf balls, the company was on the hunt for a material to make its ball cover softer yet more durable. Manufacturers typically utilize soft covers to give golfers the feel they want and spin they need when playing on the green. However, this can reduce ball speeds and make the ball more vulnerable to stress cracks over time. Harder golf balls give the player less control and may not “feel” as good off the tee.

Our PARALOID™ Impact Modifiers provided the best of both worlds as a next-generation solution for Callaway to create the newest innovation in golf ball technology.

PARALOID™ Impact Modifiers are utilized in thermoset and thermoplastic polymer systems to prolong durability and impact resistance in a variety of applications exposed to extreme conditions, such as rigid PVC products like window profiles, car bumpers and electronics. But the use of PARALOID™ in sporting goods had never been done before.

If you think about it, using PARALOID™ technology for golf ball covers makes perfect sense.


Finding the perfect balance of speed, spin and soft feel

According to TrackMan, the average swing speed of an amateur golfer is over 90 miles per hour. A golf ball must withstand these sudden and repetitive strikes without cracking, all while retaining optimal speed, spin and distance.

In a recent episode of the podcast Callaway Talks, Eric Loper, Callaway’s Senior Director of Golf Ball Research and Development, discussed the challenges Callaway’s engineers face when searching for the right combination of materials.

“The ERC Soft and Supersoft cover materials are actually quite complex resin systems, where we’re pulling in materials known to generate high ball speeds yet are resilient and soft for greenside performance. When we combine these materials, they meet the performance objectives, but unfortunately they do tend to fail under repetitive ball-striking.

”PARALOID™ is made from polymer powders, with extremely tiny rubber particles composed of 100 to 500 nanometers. Fundamentally, the particle size does not change. This means the additive offers excellent compatibility with other resins when mixed by various melt processing techniques.

Ian Drake, Global Technical Director for Dow Plastics Additives explains: “The ductility and impact performance, what we call the fracture toughness, is dramatically improved with PARALOID. We’re able to change the components of the core shell and are really excited for what this means for golf ball and other sporting applications.

”Beyond the strength of the ball cover, Callaway also needed to make sure that the polymer additive material didn’t discolor the ball. Instead of painting, the color is incorporated directly into the ball’s construction. Materials like graphene, an incredibly strong and thin compound, have been used in the past, but it changes the look of the ball too drastically. The superior color technology is evident in Callaway’s bright yellow Supersoft golf balls, released in June, as part of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus’ #PlayYellow initiative to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.


High-impact environments demand high-performance materials science

Callaway ultimately selected Dow’s PARALOID™ technology because the material can withstand stress fatigue and impact, and improve speed and trajectory, without making the ball feel harder for the players or affecting the final appearance of the product.

Eric Loper explains: “When we talk about PARALOID, it’s a solution to a problem we encountered. By pulling a specific impact modifier into this resin system, we’re able to achieve the durability we want to see.

”Both the Callaway ERC Soft and Supersoft balls feature a hybrid cover infused with a proprietary blend of PARALOID™ Impact Modifiers with SURLYN™ specialty ionomers. This innovative design helps enable longer distances, exceptional spin, softer feel, and short game control.


Dow is no stranger to helping golfers shave off a few strokes

SURLYN™ Ionomers have been making golf ball covers tougher and more durable since the early 1960s, when we first introduced the technology. Materials like PARALOID™ and SURLYN™ help golf balls last longer and go farther than other types of cover materials, allowing customers to balance exactly the right feel and resiliency—as seen with the ERC Soft and Supersoft balls.

Since the new Callaway lineup was released in stores earlier this year, golf enthusiasts around the world have enjoyed trying them out and hearing that satisfying “whack” off the tee. Even #TeamDow ambassador and professional race car driver, Austin Dillon, shared his thoughts about the balls on Twitter!

Dow’s collaboration with Callaway illustrates how sports can be used as a platform to advance innovation. Learn more about PARALOID™ Impact Modifiers here.

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